Addressing the Global Health Issue of Zinc Deficiency

By Emily Hamer (Teck Ressources Limited), Teck Resources Limited
01:47 PM, August 16, 2012

Teck is a diversified resource company committed to responsible mining and mineral development with major business units focused on copper, steelmaking coal, zinc, and energy. The pursuit of sustainability guides Teck’s approach to business. The company, which is based in Vancouver, Canada, is building partnerships and capacity to address sustainability challenges within the regions in which it operates and at the global level. 

As one of the world’s largest producers of zinc, Teck is committed to raising awareness about – and helping solve the global health issue of – zinc deficiency, thereby supporting UN Millennium Development Goal 4 to reduce child mortality by twothirds of 1990 levels by 2015.

Global issue of zinc deficiency

Zinc is an essential micronutrient for all living organisms that protects the body from illnesses and helps fight infections, yet 2 billion people around the world are not getting enough zinc through their diets. Tragically, nearly 450,000 children die every year from disorders related to zinc deficiency. In fact, more infants die from diarrhea-related diseases associated with zinc deficiency than from malaria, HIV/AIDS, and measles combined.

According to the World Health Organization, zinc deficiency is one of the leading risk factors associated with diseases such as diarrhea, contributing to the deaths of 800,000 people each year. Zinc deficiency is typically the result of inadequate dietary intake of zinc. The problem is particularly profound in the developing world, where most populations have plant-based diets that are low in zinc. Zinc, a product of mining, is particularly effective in treating diarrhea.

InitiatorTeck Ressources Ltd.
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Emily Hamer

Project benefit

  • Decreasement of malnutrition
  • Increasement of crop productivity
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Teck’s involvement

The challenge the world faces is not to produce more zinc. It is getting zinc into the diets of people suffering from zinc deficiency. This requires education, better distribution networks, and greater awareness of the dangers of zinc deficiency. Under the leadership of Don Lindsay, President and CEO of Teck and former Chair of the International Zinc Association (IZA), Teck has been actively involved in working with international organizations to find solutions to the global issue of zinc deficiency.

Zinc and health at Teck

In 2011, Teck launched its Zinc and Health program, which now includes partnerships with UNICEF Canada, Free the Children, The Micronutrient Initiative, the Government of Canada, BASF, the Ministry of Agriculture in China, and other organizations.

Teck’s Zinc and Health program includes a range of initiatives aimed at increasing awareness about the dangers of zinc deficiency and helping save children’s lives.


The company has engaged its own employees at offices and through operations around the world via a variety of initiatives, including lunch and learn sessions, a Zinc and Health newsletter, and a website,, which includes an online store where all proceeds from the sale of Zinc and Health branded items go toward supporting zinc supplementation programs.

Beyond internal awareness activities, Teck has partnered with Free the Children at We Day events across Canada. We Day is a day-long event developed to celebrate the power of young people to create positive change. It brings inspirational speeches and performances to young leaders in Canada, encouraging them to take action on local and international issues all year long. Students attending We Day events in 2011 learned about the importance of zinc for human health. Through Teck’s Zinc and Health materials, a short video, and a presentation by Don Lindsay, over 40,000 young people across Canada have been empowered to help solve the global health challenge of zinc deficiency.


In his capacity as Chair of the International Zinc Association, Lindsay was actively involved in launching the Zinc Saves Kids campaign, an initiative of the IZA to improve the survival, growth, and development of undernourished children by funding UNICEF’s zinc supplementation programs around the world. Teck is providing resources to help increase the use of zinc supplements with a goal of saving more than 200,000 lives annually by 2015. In 2011, Teck partnered with the Micronutrient Initiative and the Government of Canada to establish the Zinc Alliance for Child Health. The public-private civil society alliance is committed to reducing child mortality by scaling up the use of zinc – combined with oral rehydration salts – to treat diarrhea and by providing zinc supplementation for children more than six months old. This approach is recognized as a high-impact solution that targets Canada’s G8 objectives of the Muskoka Initiative for child health, and helps in the efforts to meet the Millennium Development Goals.

Food fortification

In early 2012, Teck announced at the World Economic Forum that they signed a three-year agreement with BASF to jointly develop innovative and affordable zinc fortification and supplementation solutions, with the goal of reducing zinc deficiency among 100 million people in developing countries by 2015. Through this agreement, BASF and Teck aim to make safe and cost-effective highquality food fortification supplements available to populations at risk of zinc deficiency in developing countries. This partnership forms part of the “Scalingup Nutrition” process and it aims to help meet the UN Millennium Development Goals, particularly the goal to halve poverty and hunger by 2015, by contributing to the realization of the Human Right to Food.

Crop nutrition

Zinc deficiency affects more than half of the world’s agricultural soils. It has a significant impact on crop productivity and may contribute to zinc deficiency among humans. Crop yield, food security, and nutritional quality can all be improved by ensuring that crops have an adequate supply of zinc. By achieving this, overall health and socioeconomic conditions in many developing countries can be improved drastically. With one of the world’s largest populations, China suffers from both land scarcity and micronutrient-deficient soils; approximately 61 percent of the arable land in China is deficient in zinc. To address this issue, Teck recently signed a two-year sponsorship agreement with the National Agricultural Technology Extension Service Centre of the Ministry of Agriculture of China (NATESC) to introduce and encourage the use of zinc fertilizers in China. Since March 2011, NATESC has been working with the IZA to carry out more than 40 field trials as well as promotional and education programs, including national workshops and training courses. The trials have resulted in increased crop yields, ranging from 3 percent to 40 percent and a value-cost ratio as high as 5 to 15 times for farmers. This newly formalized agreement between Teck and NATESC will complement the work of the IZA to promote the use of zinc fertilizer in China. Teck’s Zinc and Health partnerships demonstrate how responsible businesses can take an active role and form working relationships with nonprofit organizations to help save the lives of children.

To learn more about Teck’s Zinc and Health program, visit

About the Authors
Hamer, Emily
Teck Resources Limited

Teck is a diversified resource company committed to responsible mining and mineral development with business units focused on copper, steelmaking coal, zinc and energy, and is also a significant producer of specialty metals such as germanium and indium. We are headquartered in Vancouver, Canada.

It owns, or has an interest in, 13 mines in Canada, the USA, Chile and Peru, as well as one metallurgical complex. They are actively exploring for copper, zinc and gold in the Americas, Asia Pacific, Europe and Africa.

It has expertise across a wide range of activities related to mining and minerals processing including exploration, development, smelting, refining, safety, environmental protection, product stewardship, recycling and research.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect CSR Manager's editorial policy.
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